Steve Jobs Disses Flash in Open Letter

Michael Santo's picture

Steve Job doesn't hate Adobe and Flash. Rather, he essentially feels they just aren't good enough for next generation mobile devices, such as the iPhone and iPad.

While Apple has been under much criticism for changes to the iPhone developer agreement, which basically outlawed Adobe's attempt to get around Apple's continuing ban on Flash support ton the iPhone, it was clear then that it wasn't just about Adobe and Flash. It was more about making ti tougher to code a cross-platform app that a developer could then release on other platforms (such as Apple's big rival, Android). Still, the quashing of Adobe's attempt to allow developers to compile separate Flash apps for the iPhone platform is the most visible example of that new restriction in the developer agreement.

In the open letter that Steve Jobs wrote on Flash, he attempted to discount what he called myths, as well as pointing out the reasons behind his decision to continue to exclude Flash from the iPhone OS.

First, in his open letter, titled "Thoughts on Flash," Steve Jobs addressed the issue of "openness." As Jobs noted, Flash is proprietary. HTML5, however, which Apple has been pushing, is an open standard. On the other hand, it's not as though the iPhone OS itself is an open system, either, particularly when it comes to why apps are rejected from the App Store.

Secondly, Steve Jobs spoke of the so-called "full web," which is brought up because so many pages have those ugly grey boxes that ask for Flash support. To Jobs, the fact that some sites have moved to HTML5 (basically, many just for the iPad and iPhone), and that there are YouTube and other video streaming apps for the iPhone OS makes it all OK.

Reliability, security and performance were next on Steve Jobs' Flash hit list. He cited Symantec, and noted that Flash ni 2009 had “one of the worst security records.” He added that Flash “has not performed well on mobile devices.” Of course, with 1GHz processors appearing on devices, performance may no longer be relevant.

Of course, battery life is all-important to Apple with non-user-replaceable batteries in many of its products. Steve Jobs noted that Flash, at least according to Apple, reduces battery life by 50 percent. He didn't note what the typical amount of user for a consumer is, however. It's not the case that all someone does is play Flash videos or Flash games all day.

Jobs also asserted that Flash is mouse-driven, not touch screen driven, experience, being developed first for a PC. He has a point, but it is doubtful many consumers think that far when they see one of those ugly grey boxes on a web page.

Finally, he came to Adobe's attempt to create Flash apps. It was seen as a way around no Flash support on the iPhone OS: Adobe would give developers the ability to cross-compile Flash to run as a stand-alone app on the iPhone. Jobs said, "We know from painful experience that letting a third party layer of software come between the platform and the developer ultimately results in sub-standard apps and hinders the enhancement and progress of the platform."

He added, "It is not Adobe’s goal to help developers write the best iPhone, iPod and iPad apps. It is their goal to help developers write cross platform apps. " It is in Apple's best interest, however, to stop developers from writing cross-platform apps. They certainly don't want to see someone writing an app that runs on both Android and the iPhone.

That's where Apple's arguments ring somewhat false. The main point of all this appears to be slowing down Android, common sense would seem to say. How this all plays out, remains to be seen.

* How Will Adobe Fire Back At Steve Jobs' Flash Criticism

Written by Michael Santo

Add new comment